There are many different ways to invite people to an event including:

  • Written invitations
  • Social media, particularly using Facebook event invitations
  • Pay-per-click channels, using adverts as invites
  • Sales calls inviting attendees
  • Email marketing and drip email campaigns

Which is why you may find it surprising that the number one most effective tool for promoting events is the latter: email.

However, there is an art to inviting people to an event using email and creating campaigns that work. From ensuring your marketing emails reach their recipients (and aren’t diverted to spam), to ensuring attendees read and act upon them, we have compiled the latest industry best practice.

Read on to discover how to avoid the spam filters, create trust in your recipients, write effective subject lines, produce well designed emails, and supercharge your calls to action.

Related: Beginner’s guide to email marketing

Part 1: Getting your emails opened and acted upon

There’s no point spending hours crafting brilliant content and beautiful design if your email is simply destined to end up in recipients’ spam or trash folders, so let’s start by looking at the steps you can take to ensure it appears both legitimate and of interest.

Use a reputable email service provider (ESP)

It’s really important to choose a reputable email service provider – and be prepared to pay for the service if necessary – in order to avoid your emails being fast-tracked to spam.

ESPs are evaluated as senders based on the reputation of their customers’ IP addresses and domains. If the ESP is working with clients sending out spam to bulk email lists, and clocking up subsequent complaints, it will eventually be blocked by the mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail.

ESPs that send only solicited emails and ban spammers from their platforms have greater credibility with mailbox providers. Eventbrite is integrated with the leading trusted ESPs, including MailChimp, Aweber and Mad Mimi, enabling you to automatically add event attendees (past and present) to your email list.

However, you also have a role to play in upholding the integrity of the ESP (and your own domain), by only sending to people who have opted-in, either by subscribing on your website or via the ticketing process. In other words, never buy email lists!

Be easily identifiable

Because it’s so important that recipients know who you are and why you’re sending them an email, take extra care completing the ‘from’ field when setting up your email campaign.

Make it clear by using the name of your event or events company (i.e. London Tech Conference) along with an email address specific to that subscription, which will be easily associated with the contact’s subscription expectations (i.e. newsletter@londontechconference.co.uk). Wherever possible, don’t abbreviate the name of your company or event (i.e. LTC) as this will hinder easy recognition.

For smaller events, such as workshops or classes, where you personally interact with attendees, you may choose to use your own name and email address. But in all cases, it’s important to keep your sender names consistent. Not only do people become accustomed to whom those emails come from, mailboxes actually penalise frequent name changes. By consistently sending engaging, solicited emails under one identity you can build a good reputation all round.

Personalise your email

Spam filters will judge your email more favourably if it is addressed to a named recipient as opposed to just an email address.

Likewise, it provides more trust to recipients, who will be able to immediately see your email is one they have signed up to receive.

You can use merge tags to personalise the ‘to’ field when setting up your campaign, meaning each email can start with the recipient’s name, e.g. “Hi John…”

Avoid spammy language

There is debate over the impact of language on spam filters, but we do know that certain words and symbols can still trigger people’s own internal spam filters!

Attention grabbing tactics such as using all capital letters, pound signs or exclamation marks can have the opposite effect because people do notice the emails – and quickly single them out as spam!

Likewise, common sales language can also be off-putting. Examples include:

  • Free
  • Prize
  • Bonus
  • Buy

Other aspects of your email content that can set off spam alerts are the font colour, style and size, and spelling mistakes.

According to a study by the Radicati Group, more than 60% of respondents considered it unacceptable for email marketers to use different font sizes, irregular fonts, and different font colours. Nearly 70% of respondents prefer fonts to be one size.

The same study found that 80% of all respondents find spelling and grammatical errors the most unacceptable email offence, so pay attention when proofreading.

It’s a good idea to send out a test to a few friends before hitting ‘go’ on the campaign so you can benefit from extra pairs of eyes and get their feedback.

Write subject lines that result in emails being opened

Just because your email makes it through the spam filters doesn’t mean it will get opened. The subject line is arguably the most important factor of all when crafting your email campaign, so take the time to get it right.

It’s vital to provide the recipient with a reason to open your email – in turn this means that the actual content of your email should be useful!

Your communications should extend beyond providing details of upcoming events, to encompass the issues of interest to your audience. For example, if you offer seminars on financial issues you might send out top tips for evaluating mortgage deals.

Once you have established the ‘value proposition’ of the email, writing the subject line gets a lot easier. You might, for example, say: ‘Thinking of remortgaging? Read these top tips for evaluating deals’ (it does exactly what it says on the tin).

According to MailChimp, the best email subject lines are usually short (50 characters or fewer), descriptive, and keep their particular audience in mind. In fact, personalising the subject line with a recipient’s name or city can increase open rates by 20%.

Most ESPs offer you the opportunity to test the effectiveness of subject lines, by dividing the audience and issuing the campaign with different subject lines. Analysing the results can provide valuable insight on the factors that engage your contacts.

How to invite people to an event via email

One of the many asked questions around email is how to use email marketing to invite attendees, and encourage them to sign up. Part of your event marketing strategy should be to create what is often known as a ‘drip campaign’ to encourage sign ups to your event.

A drip campaign is when you have a series of emails that get sent out in a sequence or pattern and may change depending on the action your recipient takes. Here’s an example of the email sequence you might create to invite potential attendees to your event:

Six months before the event

  • Email to introduce the event and its key selling points, with a link to register interest
  • Pre-sale details of when ticket lines will open and availability

Five months before the event

  • Email to invite the recipient to specific sessions within the event to build interest
  • Email invitation with an early bird discount code

Four months before the event

  • Release of additional confirmation of speakers, sessions or exhibitors
  • Reminder email on early bird discount ending

Three months before the event

  • Confirmation of event schedule
  • Benefits of attending the event and sharing testimonials from previous attendees

Two months before the event

  • Reminder of registration details and key benefits of attending
  • Email to build FOMO – sharing the number of professionals that have already registered

One month before the event

  • Last-minute invitation prior to the event opening and reminder of key details
  • Sharing of articles in the press about the event and speaker quotes

Just remember to create different funnels and triggers within your email marketing system. If someone signs up for your event after the first email, you don’t want to keep using the same messaging asking them to sign up.

You also want to make it as easy as possible for your attendees to take action from your event invite to register, sign-up or access your event ticket page, as we’ll discuss more below.

Part 2. Getting your emails read and acted upon

So you got your recipient to open your email? Well done! But will they like what they see? Using a template provided by your ESP can help you put together an email that is well laid out, visually attractive and –crucially – mobile friendly. Here are some other factors to bear in mind when working on the design.

  1. Make it recognisable

Keeping the design of your emails broadly consistent with your website will aid recognition amongst your audience and create more of a seamless experience when they click through.

Use your brand colours, logo and fonts, along with pictures, graphics and tone of voice that fits your brand image.

  1. Make it feel exclusive

The trouble with email marketing is that we all get tons of it! This can make the recipient feel as though they’re just another email on your list. Why not start your email subject with “Invitation only”.

“If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in.” The guestlist or members-only approach is one that’s been employed by exclusive clubs for years.

By nature, we hate to be excluded so simply telling someone they can’t come in can make them more eager to do so. Meanwhile, those who are allowed feel privileged and special.

  1. Use the power of influencers

To send your open rate soaring, include influencer names in your subject line. If your recipient is a big fan this could be enough to make them sign-up there and then.

Aim for ‘influencers’ in your niche with a wide social media reach. Many of those with the biggest online punch offer paid promotional services, so if you can’t convince them to send out an email on your behalf, you could ‘sponsor’ them to send one, or to write a little introduction to yours.

  1. Limit places

Another way to create both exclusivity and urgency is to limit the number of places available for your event. You might say in your email:

“This is a small and exclusive event for cocktail lovers and drinks industry social media influencers. There are a total of 30 places available and you have been chosen to attend. Please confirm your attendance promptly to secure your place.”

Even if your event is not invitation-only, you can still limit ticket numbers to drive demand and FOMO: “When they’re gone, they’re gone – don’t miss out!”

  1. Don’t rely on images

It’s bad practice to design your email entirely with images (or as a single image). That’s because, according to ExactTarget, more than 60% of email clients block images by default. This means that when someone opens your email, the images won’t load unless they click a button.

Consequently, it’s smart to design your emails on the basis that images won’t be seen i.e. your message should still be discernible without images.

If it’s sufficiently well written it should persuade the recipient to allow the images to be displayed. Maintaining a good image-to-text ratio is also important for avoiding spam filters.

When designing with ‘images off’ in mind, don’t forget to avoid using images for buttons, and to use descriptive ALT text on all images and graphics.

  1. Include multiple clear CTAs

When designing your email, always keep in mind your core purpose, which is to encourage further engagement.

Punctuate your email with multiple calls to actions, providing different reasons for the reader to click through to your website. This might be to find out more about speakers or sessions, for logistical information on getting to your event or to register.

Don’t forget to incentivise with discounts and special offers and, where possible, create a sense of urgency i.e. ‘last chance to register’.

Make sure your buttons stand out, by choosing a bold colour (green and orange buttons are reported to perform best) and easy to read contrasting text. Use action-oriented language, substituting boring words like “submit” and “enter” for more action packed words like “get,” “reserve,” and “try.”

You will be able to see the effectiveness of your CTAs by checking your click rate report available through your ESP. This will tell you which links in your content received the most clicks. Make use of your ESP’s A/B testing tools to try out different CTA messages and designs.

  1. Don’t be a stranger!

Finally, one more important element to effective email marketing is frequency. While you don’t want to bombard your audience and trigger unsubscribes, you don’t want them to forget you either.

Regular contact will build your relationship with your audience, increase their familiarity with your branding and actually make them more likely to open your emails.

Maintaining a steady flow of communications, that balance pure sales messages with value-added content, is the best way to get repeat attendees for your events.

Conclusion

Follow the above best practices and your emails will not only have the best chance of landing uninterrupted in your recipients’ inboxes, but also of getting opened and read.

Crafting useful and compelling content does take time and effort but – get it right – and you will be rewarded with increased ticket sales. Email remains the most effective marketing tool in the event organiser’s toolkit, so be sure to exploit it!

Why not share the email marketing tactics that have worked for you in the comments or tweet us @EventbriteUK!

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